This morning is cold with the threat of snow, though the grass is greener after a thunderstorm last night. Hail fell from the sky rattling and clattering onto city streets and battering the rush hour traffic as I watched from the window of a cafe. It looked like a sky full of ice-hens had laid frozen eggs in the clouds and the whole eerie enchanted crop had fallen to earth. I wonder how my gambled patch of early greens fared through the hailstorm and cold snap. I take comfort in the parable of the Biblical sower, who seemed to have classic farmer style disastrous luck what with all the brambles and rocky ground and weeds choking out most of his crop. I can’t possibly do worse than that with my garden this year.
On mornings such as these it is clear that spring still has a tenuous grip upon the world. I am grateful for the radiator hissing and humming beside me, pulsating with the kind of heat that comforts the soul of a girl raised with a roaring wood stove. I remember visiting friends with forced air and baseboard heating in the midst of a Wisconsin winter and shivering, wondering where the warmth came from and why there wasn’t more of it. It gave me a strangely lonely sensation.
On the topic of parables, I have been thinking about wood stoves lately, and love, and marriage. I recently read a piece by my good friend at Little Bird Songs discussing the thrill of romance and the roaring flames of passion vs the lasting hearth fire of domesticity and marriage. I was struck by the image of the hearth fire. My parents, after 32 years of marriage and 9 children, are very much in love. I often attribute this to the fact that after marrying they moved to an old farmhouse with five foster kids, then began to produce nine children of their own. As a result they have not had a chance to tire of each other in any way, and in a sense have maintained a perpetual honeymoon delight in each others company. However, after reading about the hearth fire and considering the matter, I began to think about my mother kindling the stove. Every morning from early fall to late spring my mother, who is not a morning person, wakes up to a cold house, bundles up in a thick robe, and heads downstairs in the dark to search for the dull embers buried under the ashes of the previous night. She gathers twisted paper and dry wood and begins to carefully rebuild the fire. Sometimes the wood is wet and the house remains cold and gloomy for hours, and sometimes the fire leaps brightly almost at once, but all winter long that fire provides heat and warmth to our entire household, and every single morning it must be rebuilt.
The parable of kindling is important to me, as someone fairly newlywed, because it reminds me that it takes work to blow life into sleeping embers and sustain the fire and thrills of marriage. It also inspires me as an artist to remember that to begin again each day is essential, and also that to begin each day is possible.